This Week’s Topics:
- Devolver continues to consume their friends
- The Saudi Arabian acquisition saga continues
- Why desktop computers are not going away any time soon
- Something about gamification
Rundown Preamble Ramble:
Version 3 of My Dreams
With tax season kicking into high gear with 12 hour days and a lot of walking my boss through returns before he signs off on them, I’ve been in a weird place mentally. I spend all day doing math and logic based thinking, so I find it hard to switch over to a more ‘creative writing’ side. So, I decided to resume work on the Dragalia Lost V3 Re;Works project that I sporadically talked about last year.
The project is little more than a ruthlessly elaborate thought exercise that imagines what Dragalia Lost could be if divorced from its limitations as a gacha live service. If it were retrofitted and rebalanced into a single-player ‘packaged title.’ Something that could survive, be widely enjoyed, and that Nintendo would not be able to kill off. And boy howdy did they kill that game off. They even erased all news related to the game from its official website, because I guess they, a billion dollar company, don’t have a few hundred bucks a year to pay for the web hosting.
The part of the project that I was focusing on this past week (or past two weeks to be honest) involves rebalancing the roster of 298 characters. Meaning I am updating their 2 active skills, 3 passive abilities, and chain co-ability to make every adventurer viable for every piece of content. This is, naturally, a super involved process that involves making a lot of tiny changes and doing more ‘technical’ writing. Which involves a lot of copying and pasting of existing text to maintain consistent language while updating different things in different sheets. All while using my second screen to display an output that consolidates information from the spreadsheet based on adventurer ID numbers.
This is something that I consider myself to be ‘pretty good at for a pseudo-human non-developer’ and something that I deeply enjoy working on. It is a good mixture of something systematic, creative, and design-y, and mechanical. Even though fitting all of the necessary information on a single sheet is… tricky, let’s just say. I swear, I have gone through a good dozen revisions in trying to get everything to look right and print correctly. But that is more of an ‘imagination’ problem, and the real problems I’m having with this project are related to the software at my disposal.
Excel is not a tool for text formatting or image manipulation, which is a huge problem. The end goal of this project is to produce a 500+ page PDF document with a related Excel document that features the same information in a more… malleable format. My Excel skills are good enough to do the latter, but the former presents some issues.
When using word wrap in Excel, the line spacing can either be vertically justified or capped at 1.2 lines. That is normally fine, but is not ideal when you are trying to squeeze over a thousand characters in a space that’s half the size of an index card. (The descriptions for skills and abilities in Dragalia Lost are extremely detailed.) While I can adjust this in bulk and change line spacing to 1, this does not change the size of the text, so it will fill less of a ‘text box.’ This means that I would need to manually increase the size of this text… for potentially all 298 adventurers.
But wait! There’s more! I have not even gotten into the ‘images’ angle. In short, you cannot make Excel into an image referencing tool. I tried, but it does not work smoothly. Google Sheets almost does, but then you run into stability and compression issues. As such, the solution I came to is that I will need to use placeholder images in Excel, and replace them in Acrobat. Which sounds like a fairly basic practice… except for the fact that this means replacing at 15 images per adventurer. Meaning I would need to manually replace 4,470 images. YIKES! I can practically hear my fingers weep…
The most frustrating part of this arrangement is that so much of this is what I call ‘shit work.’ Which is synonymous with ‘intern work’ or ‘n-word work.’ Something that is systematic, repetitive, and could most likely be automated by a machine. Also known as the type of work that people should want to minimize, and the type of work that AI should be working to minimize.
Unfortunately, I don’t know how to make an AI do what I want it to do, which has been a major frustration for me as I’ve been fiddling with ChatGPT and Bing Chat, only for it to disappoint me. Because everything I want is either too obscure, inappropriate, or just not possible. I’ve been hearing all about how AI can do this and that amazing thing, but you cannot really teach it how to do something. You cannot make it work as your assistant by showing it how to do something, and then telling it to do it several hundred times. Which I hope will be the big debut feature of Windows 12.
Also, for the record, this is all just one component of the V3 Re;Works project. It is the biggest and most complicated, but it’s FAR from the only one. So… yeah, this is going to take me a good long while to do. And if anyone has any tips in helping me in optimizing my workflow, please let me know. For example, should I even be using Adobe Acrobat? Is there a top secret way to alter the word warp in Excel? Or is there a piece of software that actually can do my shit work for me? Lemme know in the comments below!
Doink Has Been Devolved!
(Devolver Acquired Doinksoft)
Starting off with some acquisition news, Devolver Digital has been on my ‘danger list’ after they went public in 2021 and acquired a bunch of their usual partners. While I like the idea of smaller studios growing into mid-sized studios in order to fund larger projects and better manage risks, I… I just don’t like the idea of public companies. Public companies, despite their name, do not have a responsibility to better the world around them or help people. Instead, they exist to accumulate wealth for their shareholders at the cost of their employees. Thus creating a larger and wealthier upper class of capitalist investors and a poorer, weaker, working class.
This is not a flaw of the system. It is the intended outcome of a system designed to hurt people, and the only reason why I participate in this system is because… how else am I supposed to fund my IRA? How else am I supposed to build up my savings? Disliking society does not mean that one cannot live within it or play by their rules.
Anyway, the actual story this week is that Devolver has consumed yet another smaller independent studio in the form of Doinksoft. Developers of Gato Robot, the physical exclusive Demon Throttle, and the upcoming Gunbrella. …All of which were published by Devolver. Which makes this yet another long-standing development partner being acquired by their publisher prior to the release of their latest game.
Nothing much to add here, other than how acquisitions have been kinda slow so far this year. This is probably due to interest rates going up, making long-term debt less attractive, and the ongoing legal dispute around the Microsoft Activision Blizzard deal. The environment is less attractive to big acquisitions, and that is a good thing. Business pundits like to praise consolidation and mergers for resulting in greater efficiency and resources, but on a large scale, they just wind up hurting people.
The Saudis Snatched Scopely!
(Savvy Games Group Acquires Scopely)
Back in September, word broke that Saudi Arabia’s Savvy Games Group was planning a major acquisition, after having snagged up 8.1 percent of Embracer Group for a cool billion back in June 2022. Now, I was dreading this announcement, worried about what large-scale publisher could be gobbled up by their maw and become property of a not-so-good government. Fortunately, their victim was a company I literally never heard of, and upon looking over their library, I said ‘I honestly don’t care.’
Scopely is a California-based mobile game developer who is responsible for such hits as Not Fall Guys, Looney Tunes the Gacha, The Walking Dead’s mobile-tie-in, and some Star Trek 4X thing. They are not an interesting developer to me, and that’s fine, but what I find extremely odd about this is the price attached to this acquisition. Savvy paid $4.9 billion dollars for Scopely. That is three Gearboxes, Eidos Montreals, and Crystal Dynamics. …Okay that is a bit deceptive, but it still makes me go ‘why?’
Well, the answer is simple. Because they make predatory mobile games. Predatory tactics lead to high revenues, and high revenues lead to an expectation of even higher revenues. Scopely has the workers and infrastructure needed to produce titles that have the potential to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars while costing tens of millions. Mobile gaming is not going anywhere, and it will spread even wider as more regions amass the wealth and economic stability needed to sustain a games market. Specifically MENA regions.
…Well, assuming that the monetization practices of these games are not outlawed by a major market, such as the European Union.
But that’s all beside the point. The point is that Saudi Arabia is pouring more and more money into gaming. And that, no matter the context, that’s bad.
Natalie Remembered The ‘Desktops Are Dead’ Argument
(This Has Nothing to Do With the News, and Is Just a Ramble)
Huh. That last section reminded me of an apocalyptic narrative that was going around in the early 2010s, saying that, ‘within a few years (or decades) desktop computers would be outdated.’ That everybody would switch over to mobile devices for their computer needs and the idea of having a designated ‘computer area’ would be a thing of the past.
This narrative sits side by side in my head with the ‘mobile will replace console gaming’ narrative that was going around at the same time. Because they are basically the same story. ‘The new emergent technology that is growing in popularity will overtake the existing technology and make it outmoded.’ And they are… bad narratives for the same problem.
Consoles are a simple and convenient way for people to play video games on their television, and for their price, people are getting powerful entertainment hardware that doubles as a media box. And desktop computers have been an essential part of doing office work, bureaucracy, and almost every part of white collar labor for over 40 years. They are the best way to write a memo, compose and manage emails, make spreadsheets, or do most things that people typically use a computer for. While laptops are an alternative, they also come with a lot of drawbacks, ranging from ergonomics to customization to durability. And even though a lot of people lazily use their phones to take in content, it is kind of a pain in the ass to do much more than that.
Anything more technical than simple browsing or streaming kind of sucks on a phone. Editing a spreadsheet, writing a paper, or managing files on mobile require twice the effort and are only half as productive. And if you do something like gaming, editing, or art creation… it’s super limited and underpowered compared to what a good laptop or desktop could provide.
I think nothing proved this more than the rise in demand for PCs during the COVID-19 pandemic, and during the following year, despite rampant GPU shortages. PCs simply are not going away, and I think what will continue to make them so appealing is that they are one of the few pieces of technology you can really make your own, and fairly easily.
95% of people cannot build a phone or fix hardware issues with them, due to how tiny and proprietary the hardware is, and there is no real way to upgrade phones (outside of super niche models). The same goes for tablets, and it is true for laptops beyond a few components, like RAM, storage, and maybe battery. But desktops can be pretty easily repaired, upgraded, and customized to a rather high degree. Which is one of the few ways people can customize their digital experience, after Windows and modern web/app design have so strongly limited the realm of acceptable thought.
I know it is foolish to say ‘never’ in regards to anything, but desktop PCs are something that I simply cannot see going away, and they really shouldn’t. Without them, common folks would lose a lot of power in the devices they use, and that really isn’t something that people should want or encourage. Also, a shift to cloud computing would be necessary to ‘move past’ desktops, and that is not happening anytime soon considering the sorry state of North American infrastructure. You might think I forgot to add ‘internet’ to that sentence, but I didn’t.
Also, I don’t think most people understand just how SHIT most business-level cloud computing software is. And trust me when I say it’s fookin shite! My S-Corp pays $55 a month to use tax accounting software and it runs like a machine on an HDD and 4 GB of DDR2 RAM. It would honestly be more effective just to run my own damn server in my bedroom, but my house is only wired for 100 mbps, and I really don’t want to redo the wiring. Mostly because my father did it himself, and made a ripe mess of things.
Natalie Remembered The Gamification Predictions
(Again, More Completely Unrelated Rambles!)
…And going on that rant reminded me of another prediction from that time. A prediction that the concept of ‘gamification’ would spread into facets of everyday life. Which… definitely came true. You can see this with any sort of app that gives players goals, levels, or rewards for doing certain activities. I’ve seen this with rideshare apps, smart watches that offer health insurance reimbursements, and even basic account programs. But the queen, king, and jester of all of those is easily Microsoft Edge.
This is something I only learned when I started using the browser for chat last month, but Microsoft Edge has a robust rewards system. One where users are given daily tasks and mini-surveys and points for doing a set amount of searches every day, whether it be on desktop or mobile. It’s actually a pretty expansive system, and if properly engaged with, or exploited, can be used to amass a tiny bit of cash.
It actually reminds me of Swagbucks, an online survey and data harvesting search engine I used for a few months when I was in middle school and wanted free stuff. Except this is coming from Microsoft, and if you run Windows the way they want you to, then you can wind up amassing points that can be exchanged for online gift cards. All you need to do is use the internet, taking mini surveys, and giving Microsoft ample data they can use for… stuff. Microsoft gamified using the internet and giving them data, which is… an impressive commitment.
Heck, they are gamifying gaming with the way this rewards system interplays with Xbox. People can earn reward points if they join Xbox Game Pass, and can potentially pay for most of the subscription just by using rewards points. …And this has apparently been going on for over five years, but I’m just figuring out about it now? Dang… Also, while it seems like one might be making money off of this, they really aren’t, and all the time spent doing this piddly crap would be better spent working for minimum wage.
…Okay, that’s it for this week. Next week I’ll… complain about tax stuff.
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“Huh. That last section reminded me of an apocalyptic narrative that was going around in the early 2010s, saying that, ‘within a few years (or decades) desktop computers would be outdated.’ That everybody would switch over to mobile devices for their computer needs and the idea of having a designated ‘computer area’ would be a thing of the past.” – Laughs in computer programming. ‘Cause they can pry my development system from my cold dead hands.
That narrative never really seemed to acknowledge that people actually like using desktop computers for work. And the more time passes, the more foolish that idea seems.